The Vancouver Second Mile Society’s mandate is to improve the quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities living in SRO (single room occupancy) hotels, rooming houses and low-income housing. We work with seniors living in the Downtown South and the Downtown Eastside to build and strengthen their communities by establishing social support systems, run by the seniors themselves. We focus on providing program participants with a quiet welcoming space to relax and connect with others.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic VSMS delivered programs at our 509 East Hastings location (Downtown Eastside Seniors Centre) and through facilities owned and operated by the City of Vancouver (Continental Seniors Centre) and locations in which we provided The Neighbourhood Helpers Program (Downtown Eastside, Downtown South, and Chinese Outreach Projects):
Since the pandemic began, our organization has stopped all in-person activities and focused on (A) preparing and distributing food baskets to needy seniors, (B) preparing low cost lunches for sale from our Hastings Street location, and (C) contacting seniors by phone or through their building managers.
VSMS will re-open in-person programs for seniors in July 2021. This document provides guidelines for employees, volunteers, and program participants to continue to safely lead, support, and participate in programs offered by VSMS. This document will be amended as best practices emerge following guidelines from BC-CDC and other organizations.
COVID-19 is a serious public health concern. It spreads in a similar way to flu, where there is close contact between people.
Most common symptoms:
- Dry cough
- Severe tiredness
Less common symptoms:
- Body aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Skin rash or discolouration of fingers or toes
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- chest pain or pressure
- loss of speech or movement
The virus is commonly spread from one person to another through the air. People can also catch it by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. Most people infected with the virus have mild symptoms and recover, but some experience more serious illness and may need hospital care. While people of all ages can be infected, those over 40 seem to be more vulnerable, as are those with weakened immune systems or an underlying health condition such as diabetes, heart and lung disease. The virus has also been detected in asymptomatic persons. The incubation period of COVID-19 is between two and 14 days. Common signs of infection include a fever, coughing, and difficulty in breathing.
A wide range of symptoms (noted above) are associated with COVID-19. There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for people 1) aged 65 and over; 2) with compromised immune systems; and, 3) with underlying medical conditions.
If You Think You Have Been Exposed
People living in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or who have traveled from an area or have been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, have a higher risk of contracting the virus. The virus may be able to live on surfaces for up to 10 days depending on the particular material, so being aware of exposure can be difficult.
Persons who believe they have come into contact with the virus should monitor how they feel, watch for symptoms and stay home in quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Anyone who has traveled outside of Canada must self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days and upon returning to Canada, provide the government with an approved self-isolation plan. There is currently an official global travel advisory and pandemic COVID-19 travel health notice in effect asking Canadian to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection.
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) asks to call your health-care provider or 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319), the province’s dedicated coronavirus hotline, if you believe you have symptoms and have been in contact with someone who is known to have the illness. The same applies if you have symptoms and have returned from — or been in contact with someone who has returned from — an area with widespread community transmission of the illness. The BCCDC has outlined if/when some few should be tested on their website. You can also use the COVID assessment tool here.
Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. People may not know they have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. In severe cases, infection can lead to death. Recent evidence indicates that the virus can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. Avoiding contact with others is the most important step in defeating COVID-19. For medical advice regarding Covid-19 please call the Health-link Nurse Hotline, 811.
Reopening In-person programming in July 2021
VSMS plans to offer limited in person activities using the posted procedures and directions.
We have established and posted the following occupancy limits for our Seniors Center (located at 509 E Hastings) and for specific spaces:
Individual offices: 1-2 (posted at office entrance)
Main meeting room: 30
All other spaces will remain closed for this stage of re-opening.
While our staff understands that asking participants to register for daily programs in advance is preferable, it is not realistic since the population we serve do not always own or have access to phones and computers (i.e. email). Admission will be on a first come, first served basis until room capacity (36) is reached.
We will initially offer un-structured activities (eg: Lunch, Television watching). Lunch will begin at a set time and will last 1.5 hours.
The occupancy of the main areas has been reduced to 36 including program participants, staff and volunteers. Where possible (i.e. where groups of participants have historically come to VSMS together) efforts will be made to contact the individuals in advance to advise them of the new protocols.
All individuals arriving at our 509 East Hastings location will be admitted one at a time and the operating protocol will be explained. A table placed inside the entrance door will be equipped with a plexiglass barrier, hand sanitizer, masks, a contact log listing names, contact information, times of entry, health/safety questionnaires and a thermometer. This table will be staffed by a rotating roster of VSMS employees and volunteers between 9am to closing from Monday to Friday.
Staff, program participants and volunteers must avoid physical contact when greeting others. Only those members who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the premises. Fully vaccinated meaning 2 inoculations plus a 2 week follow up period. Verification of vaccination status will be through review of health authority documentation.
All staff, volunteers, and program participants will be asked to wear masks or face shields when in the building. The only exception will be for staff who are the sole occupants of their offices. Once they exit their office and are in common areas in the building, they must wear a mask.
Signage at the table and on surrounding walls and floors will provide basic information supporting health and safety when in the building:
COVID-19 Information Signage
- Symptoms sign (i.e. “If you exhibit any of the following symptoms please do not enter the building”)
- Contact information for COVID-19 testing
Personal Safety/Responsibility Signage
- Sanitize hands
- Put on face mask
- Cough/sneeze into elbow
- Practice physical distancing
Building Safety Signage
- Maintain 2-metre distance between self and others
Please pay close attention to Personal Safety and Building Safety signage.
Steps for Program Participation
Step 1 – Arrival
Upon arrival, employees, participants, and volunteers will be asked to sanitize their hands, put on a mask, sign in, have their temperature taken and complete a screening questionnaire. Normal temperatures are 37.9c and below. Anything higher than 38c, please see guidelines in FAQs. Participants will be informed that they may be required to leave based on limited time and seating capacity.
Step 2 – Engaging in activities and work
Program participants will be directed to the main meeting room. Tables will be assembled in the room with plexi-glass barriers and sanitizers will be placed in each section.
In the event that seniors arrive as a group or pair, every effort will be made to seat them close together.
The lunch program will be served as the following:
- Participants will follow the processes described in “Step 1 - Arrival”.
- Once finished, participants will be directed to a seat by a staff or volunteer.
- Said staff will collect payment at the table, then return with food and drink (as described in “Step 3 – Access to non-meeting space”.
- Once the participant has left, cleaning staff will sanitize the area used.
Newspapers and periodicals will be available to participants.
Staff will go to their individual offices and either remain there or go to the “main meeting room” if they are supporting a program in that space.
Staff will continue to use Zoom to support virtual meetings.
Work-days/hours may be staggered for those onsite and staff may also work from home.
Volunteers will report to their designated assignment.
Step 3 – Access to non-meeting space
Washrooms are available. Everyone is asked to sanitize hands before and after washroom use.
The kitchen is closed to program participants. Staff/Volunteers will deliver drinks and food to program participants at their tables in the main meeting room. No outside food is permitted to be shared and/or eaten on the premise.
The kitchen will be available to staff and volunteers to make tea and coffee. Occupancy is 2 people. Kitchen staff will serve and pour coffee for participants who are not allowed to touch the handle of the coffee pot. Staff and volunteers will use their own personal cups, dishes, utensils for eating and drinking and be responsible for rinsing and placing them in the dishwasher.
Step 4 – Sanitization
While VSMS cleaning staff will have general responsibility for cleaning and sanitizing all spaces and contents, staff, volunteers and program participants are expected to do their part as well.
VSMS cleaning staff will sanitize the main meeting room, equipment and materials after each participant leaves their seat. Additionally, sanitization may occur every 30 minutes. They will also carry out a comprehensive cleaning of the building after hours (i.e. programs closed, staff have left).
Staff are responsible for cleaning their respective offices/work stations and equipment during the day. Office doors will be left open during the day to allow for air to circulate.
Staff are also responsible for wiping down public contact points (entrance, washroom, hall/light switches and surfaces in these spaces) twice during (or more frequently if soiled) the day (checklist/schedule to be provided).
Step 5 – Departure
Departure time for staff, volunteers, and program participants will be noted in the contact log they signed at arrival.
Policy, Guidelines (Safety Plan), Communication & Training
We have developed a policy with guidelines to ensure staff, program participants, and volunteers are safe. Our policy includes what to do if staff begin to feel ill at work.
We have implemented a training plan to ensure all staff, including new staff, understand the policy and guidelines.
We have posted signage at the door to the building indicating that people who are experiencing symptoms or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 must not enter or meet with staff.
Staff will ensure that the policy and guidelines are being implemented across all programs and communicated to participants and volunteers.
Board members will monitor risks. They will review the policy and guidelines at least every month with staff members and revise as needed. Staff may also bring ideas or concerns about health and safety to the Executive Director who may bring them to Board members at any time.
Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions
Individuals with symptoms arriving at the building or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, program participants, and volunteers and sent home. Employees who develop symptoms outside of work should notify their supervisor and stay home.
Individuals who are sick should follow BCCDC recommended steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.
Sick employees are not required to provide a COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
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In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. But do close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:
- Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
Follow the BCCDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations:
- Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
- To disinfect surfaces, use disinfecting agents and their working concentrations known to be effective against coronaviruses and are appropriate for the surface.
- Be sure to follow the instructions on the product labels to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
- You may need to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the setting and disinfectant product you are using.
In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, employers should determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take additional precautions:
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by FOIPPA?
- Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should be excluded from work and remain in home isolation if they do not need to be hospitalized. Employers should provide education to employees on what to do if they are sick.
- Employers may need to work with Vancouver Coastal Health to determine which employees may have had close contact with the employee with COVID-19 and who may need to take additional precautions, including exclusion from work and remaining at home.
- Most workplaces should follow the Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Explores and instruct potentially exposed employees to stay home for 14 days, telework if possible, and self-monitor for symptoms.
Sick employees should follow BCCDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.
Employees may have been exposed if they are a “close contact” of someone who is infected, which is defined as being within about 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time1:
- Potentially exposed employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and follow BCCDC recommended steps.
- Potentially exposed employees who do not have symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.
All other employees should self-monitor for symptoms and wear face masks when in public. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.
1. The primary route of COVID-19 transmission is prolonged (more than 15 minutes) close contact with a symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, or asymptomatic infected person. (BCCDC)
Employees may have been exposed if they are a “close contact” of someone who is infected, which is defined as being within about 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time:
- Potentially exposed employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and follow BCCDC recommended steps
- Potentially exposed employees who do not have symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.
All other employees should self-monitor for symptoms and wear cloth face coverings when in public. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.
- If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee used the facility, clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following the BCCDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
- If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
- Other employees may have been exposed to the virus if they were in “close contact” (within approximately 6 feet) of the sick employee for a prolonged period of time.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by FOIPPA
- Those who have symptoms should self-isolate and follow BCCDC recommended steps.
- In most workplaces, those potentially exposed but with no symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.
- Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.
Sick employees should follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employees should not return to work until they meet the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider.
Employers should not require a sick employee to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to return to work. Employees with COVID-19 who have stayed home can stop home isolation and return to work once they have met these criteria.
Have conversations with employees if they express concerns. Some people may be at higher risk of severe illness. This includes older adults (65 years and older) and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions. By using strategies that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, you will help protect all employees, including those at higher risk. These strategies include:
- Implementing work from home and other social distancing practices
- Actively encouraging employees to stay home when sick
- Providing sick leave
- Promoting handwashing
- Providing supplies and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for cleaning and disinfecting workspaces
- Requiring all employees to wear masks
In workplaces where it is not possible to eliminate face-to-face contact consider assigning employees who are at higher risk of severe illness work tasks that allow them to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, if feasible.
Employers should not require employees to provide a note from their healthcare provider when they are sick and instead allow them to inform their supervisors or employee health services when they have conditions that put them at higher risk for diseases.
VSMS is exploring the possibility of offering outdoor programming (i.e. park spaces and courtyard/outdoor spaces connected to single room occupancy buildings). With the arrival of inclement weather later in the fall and into the winter season it may be possible to continue programming if VSMS were able to acquire a large (20’ x20’ tent) and space heater that could be transported to different locations. VSMS outreach staff must work closely with individual building manager on where, when, and how to offer programming to seniors under a safe condition. Staff must discuss the safety plan with the building manager prior to program implementation.
Mahjong will be reinstated as a planned activity using the following safety precautions:
- two tables will be separated by a distance of 8ft in a room separate from the large meeting room;
- Each table will be surrounded by four chairs, so that Mahjong players are sitting approximately .75 metres from each other;
- In addition to face masks, each player would also wear a face shield;
- Mahjong playing tiles will be sanitized by kitchen staff before a session begins, as will the tables and chairs;
- Participants will form pods of 4 players each;
- A pre-scheduled group of four will be chosen from a pod and assigned a table. Initially tables will be available for 2 hours from 12pm to 2pm.
- In addition to the regular rules of admission to the Centre, each player must wear a face shield. When not sitting at their assigned table, players are not to stand or sit within 6ft of others.
Note: Included for reference. Contact Log is correctly spaced for physical use in original format.
|Name||Contact Info||Date||Time||Sick?||High Temperature?||Looks Sick?||Runny Nose?||Fever?||Cough?||Travelled?|